Poor Little Tracker

I mentioned earlier about our 1991 Geo Tracker that we tow behind with our 24ft Class C Icon RV and that it was having multiple issues. The trip to beautiful Banff and Jasper, in Alberta, Canada has been marred with one break down after another. Canada is extraordinary though, and I hope to go back this spring, summer, and fall. The wildlife is abundant and the campgrounds are so beautiful; it is a wildlife and landscape photographer’s, dream vacation.

When we arrived in Banff and pulled into our campsite spot which Fred and Becky had managed to reserve for us, Michael joyously unhitched the car for the first time since leaving Southern California but found that the ancient battery was dead. He called around and located a Napa store and biked the old battery into town, biked back again, and replaced it with a new one. The next day we all piled into Tracker and went to the beautiful, Banff hot springs but agreed unanimously that the car was still riding rough, so I looked up a local mechanic, Mountain Men, and Michael scheduled an appointment to check out the car. Michael and I tried our best to relax and enjoy the moment, but in the back of our minds, Tracker weighed heavily in our thoughts.

After examining our cute little car, the mechanic decided that a tune-up was in order because it was missing and stalling. Michael gave them the OK and they started work on it supposedly, right away. A couple of days later, and after approximately $700.00, Michael picked up the car again so that we could continue on to Jasper. In all fairness, the Banff mechanic was still not totally satisfied with the way it was running, but because we were in a hurry to move on, thought the car was at least trustworthy and wouldn’t break down.

Mind you, having car issues definitely ruined the drive to Jasper from Banff which crosses over the incredible icefields, and we will have to return to see them again. Because the car still ran rough once we arrived in Jasper, and he didn’t feel comfortable with how it was handling, Michael looked up Jasper Tire as soon as we arrived at the campgrounds. He had called around and they came highly recommended. Once he dropped it off and they had a chance to check it over, the mechanic thought the universal joint needed to be replaced, which would improve the roughness we felt as passengers. That solved what we thought was the final problem, and the car did in fact run much better. Jasper Tire BTW treated us very fairly and went beyond the call of duty by finishing the work in 8 hours. We too would highly recommend them.

The next day, Fred, Becky, Michael and I merrily drove up to the Miette Hot Springs, which is about 40 miles out of town and past, beautiful, golden aspen trees sprinkled among the pine forests that lined the roadway. We had a fantastic and relaxing soak this time in the luxurious settings of yet another hot springs and fortunately for us, we met a couple from New York, Wilson, and Isabelle, who ended up rescuing us when we again broke down on the narrow, 2 lane descent back to Jasper. It was just starting to get dark when Michael noticed the car had died as we sped downhill, and this time the car quit on us for good and we had to brake hard and all get out and push it off of the road. Wilson, being a mechanical engineer, and a kind and involved Good Samaritan, pulled over when he saw us standing by the car with the hood up and came over to help. He diagnosed it as mechanical failure because the car would turn over but not start. They cheerfully and generously volunteered to drive us all the way back to the Wapiti campground, which we gratefully accepted as we quickly locked up and abandoned Tracker for the night. Isabelle got in the back with Michael, Becky, and me, while Fred sat up front with Wilson because he was taller than the rest of us.

As we all chatted and the four of us gushed out our gratitude for being rescued, we got to know one another better, and they expressed an interest in seeing wildlife. Just as we rounded a curve where we saw elk earlier, we were able to spot bulls sparring on the side of the road near the town of Jasper which was something they had not seen yet. They both pulled out their iPhones and videoed an intense battle between two of them. If you haven’t seen the males fighting for the right to a harem of females, it is a spectacle like no other. I am amazed that they don’t kill each other more often. Wilson and Isabelle, who is a CPA by the way, ended up also seeing moose and a bear the very next day when they took us up on the suggestion to visit Maligne and Moose Lake. When Isabelle texted me her fabulous photos and videos, I praised her for getting the grand prize award.

In the morning, Michael and I got up early and drove back to pick up the Tracker, and this time we took it to a Chevy Dealership in Hinton. We figured mechanics that only worked on Chevrolets would finally get to the bottom of our car issues. A fuel injector was quickly diagnosed as the culprit but they couldn’t locate a fuel injector in any of the junkyards in the time frame available, so we had to go back and get the car without it being repaired.

We returned to dry camp that night in the Wapiti Campground and the next morning we got up early and headed west toward Seattle to visit a dear friend, Nancy, who had moved there from Encinitas, California several months ago. Fred and Becky decided to go to Yoho and we agreed to meet back up in Seaside, Oregon later that next week. We got as far as Merritt in British Columbia around 7 pm that day and stayed in a Rest Stop that night, exhausted and cold but slept well in spite of all the stress. We woke up to huge, semi-trucks idling their engines all night long and cheery truck drivers waving to me as I walked Callie in a heavy drizzle that morning. Little did we know that later in the day, disaster would strike once again.

Towing a vehicle behind the RV is a constant stress. But until now, the rewards have always outweighed the disadvantages, but sadly, not this trip. 80 miles north of a remote town called Blue River, we hit a pothole really hard and we just knew that something bad was surely going to happen. Not more than 5 minutes down the road, I smelled burnt rubber and insisted that Michael pull over and check out the source of the smell. He got out and walked around, and to our relief, did not notice anything amiss. He started the RV back up again and we pulled out onto the road while I kept an eye on the rear view camera. As soon as he pulled out, the Tracker was weaving back and forth, so I of course screamed at Michael that something was very wrong. I don’t handle this kind of stress very well anymore and tend to get a little emotional. I call it Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome because of all the adventures I have been through with him!

This time, when I got out and looked, and as he moved forward slowly, the back left tire was shredded and smoking and I once again screeched for him to stop! He did just that, and when he too saw the shot tire he admitted that we didn’t have a jack and that we were going to have to unhook the car to seek out help. We were just so glad it wasn’t the RV this time because we have had many blow-outs, and it is even less fun. Not 10 miles up the road, Michael spotted a sign for Tow Services and we were able to reach Shelly, the wife of Lang, who owned his own fleet of trucks, came to our rescue about an hour later. When Lang carefully checked the car over, he was horrified to share with us the full extent of the damage that had occurred!

Apparently, when we hit the pothole, as far as he could figure out, the engine somehow dropped into a low gear, loosening up the engine mounts and it locked both back wheels. So, not just one flat tire, but two tires and the engine is absolutely totaled. The good news is, is that we are talking about this and that we are all OK. He suggested that we take the bikes off of the rack on the car and put them on the RV because the car would have to be towed backward to a town called Blue River, which is about 80 miles west of the accident. We left the car with a highly recommended mechanic that Lang suggested and we will have to figure out what to do next. Geico, our insurance company needs to check the car out in the States before an assessment can be made. So we have to decide if it is worth it or not. The car is old and may have to be junked. It is the perfect tow car though and it will not be an easy decision to make.

I was so glad we weren’t towing the Tracker when we headed west to Washington because of the steep grade through the Coquihalla Summit and pass. There was a truck emergency brake off-ramp every mile or so which was rather unsettling to me. Having the car behind us would have stressed out our brakes because it was really scary even without the car towed behind the RV. The pass is gorgeous though and worth seeing if you are traveling in a trustworthy vehicle. Maybe I should be grateful that the Tracker broke down before we left Canada.

The four of us plus Callie have been reunited now in Seaside, Oregon, and I am happily writing about my fantastic travel adventures in hindsight! Fortunately for me, I am alive and well, and safe in Pipsqueak with raindrops pinging dramatically on the metal roof above me. I will write stories of Washington and our visit with Nancy another day. Callie, of course, takes all of this in stride at the helm of of the RV, cool as a cucumber, and aloof as only a cat can be.

Jasper National Park

When we left Banff for Jasper Park last week , we had to drive past the Columbia Icefields, and what a spectacular drive it was. The scenery is breathtaking and the rock formations and mountains that were tipped over on their sides like someone had pushed them, is surreal. The sides of the mountains that were once the floor upon which to walk on are now verticle cliffs of tremendous heights. The forces of tectonic plates and the upward thrust to the Canadian Rockies is like nowhere else in the world. Fall is in the air and the aspens are turning gold already and the nights dipped into the ’30s. By the time we left, snow had dusted the Rockies. Callie, of course, took her rightful place on the dash of the RV and watched the beautiful scenery fly by as we traveled to Wapiti Campground.

We have been here since Wednesday and had to take the Tracker in one more time in order to finally fix the problem. The universal joint was the last to be fixed after a new battery and time-up. The little car that couldn’t, is now the car that can. We drove to Moose Lake yesterday and had the unique experience of watching a mother moose come down to the water’s edge with her yearling calf. It was a really special event to watch the two of them snorting quietly to one another as the mother eased into waist-deep water.

I just finished an update on the car, which didn’t fare well after all but wanted to make sure that Jasper got its fair due. It is a gorgeous park, hit hard by the pine bore beetle, but beautiful never the less. We saw lots of elk and bighorn sheep, moose, but no wolves or bears. I would have loved to photograph them. That is ok though.